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Just In: The Miracle That Earned Sainthood for St. Theodora (Mother Theodore Guerin)

The Third Miracle Guerin Theodore

First Step to Sainthood

CORRECTED *:

Now she’s known as Saint Theodora, but for years we’ve known her as Mother Theodore Guerin, the guiding force behind the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary of the Woods.

Random House now presents the seldom told story of the miracle that brought about the canonization of the saint, as told by Bill Briggs.

Saint Theodora entered the religious life in 1825 as Sister St. Theodore, in France. As she advanced in her service, she was called to move ultimately to Indiana, which she did so with some reluctance and trepidation. Today, she is honored for the educational initiatives she undertook while serving as head of the convent near Terre Haute, Ind.

But it is her beatification and subsequent canonization in 2006 that underlies the detective story in journalist Briggs’s The Third Miracle: An Ordinary Man, a Medical Mystery, and a Trial of Faith.

Here’s how the publisher describes it:

Part detective story and part courtroom drama—with a touch of the supernatural—The Third Miracle exposes, for the first time ever, the secret rituals and investigations the Catholic Church today undertakes in order to determine sainthood.

“On a raw January 2001 morning at a Catholic convent deep in the Indiana woods, a Baptist handyman named Phil McCord made an urgent plea to God. He was by no means a religious man but he was a desperate man. McCord’s right eye was a furious shade of red and had pulsed for months in the wake of cataract surgery. He had one shot at recovery: a risky procedure that would replace part of his diseased eye with healthy tissue from a corpse. Dreading the grisly operation, McCord stopped into the convent’s chapel and offered a prayer—a spontaneous and fumbling request of God: Can you help me get through this? He merely hoped for inner peace, but when McCord awoke the next day, his eye was better—suddenly and shockingly better. Without surgery. Without medicine. And no doctor could explain it. Many would argue that Mother Théodore Guérin, the long-deceased matriarchal founder of the convent, had “interceded” on McCord’s behalf. Was the healing of Phil McCord’s eye a miracle?

“That was a question that the Catholic Church and the pope himself would ultimately decide. As part of an ancient and little-known process, top Catholic officials would convene a confidential tribunal to examine the handyman’s healing, to verify whether his recovery defied the laws of nature. They would formally summon McCord, his doctors, coworkers, and family to a windowless basement room at the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. They would appoint two local priests to serve the roles of judge and prosecutor. And they would put this alleged miracle on trial, all in an effort to determine if Mother Théodore, whose cause for beatification and canonization dated back to 1909, should be named the eighth American saint.

“In The Third Miracle, journalist Bill Briggs meticulously chronicles the Church investigation into this mysterious healing and offers a unique window into the ritualistic world of the secretive Catholic saint-making process—one of the very foundations on which the Church is built. With exclusive access to the case and its players, Briggs gives readers a front-row seat inside the closed-door drama as doctors are grilled about the supernatural, priests doggedly hunt for soft spots in the claim, and McCord comes to terms with the metaphorical “third miracle”: his own reconciliation with the metaphysical. As the inquiry shifts from the American heartland to an awaiting jury at Vatican City in Rome, Briggs astutely probes our hunger for everyday miracles in an age of technology, the Catholic Church’s surprisingly active saint-making operation, and the eternal clash of faith and science.”

We have the book in stock now along with several earlier biographies of Mother Theodore Guerin. If you’ve ever wondered how a saint becomes a saint, this book will pull back the curtain for you.

* CORRECTION: The Sisters of Providence motherhouse is at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, about four miles northwest of Terre Haute. Thanks to reader Dave Cox, who works there, for straightening me out.

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Books That Changed Our Lives (plus: How Books and Pommes Frites Go Together)

I’ve been asked to sit in on a panel discussion next Monday, Jan. 31, at the studios of WFPL, Louisville’s NPR News station. I’ll be on State of Affairs, the locally produced public affairs show hosted by Julie Kredens, live at 1 p.m. The show will be rebroadcast that evening at 9 p.m. and then will be available afterward, online, for your private listening by download.

Laura Ellis, the acting producer of the show, has asked me to be prepared to discuss the topic in the title of this post: Books That Changed Our Lives.

I’m able to answer that question fairly quickly, and I may or may not preview for you the three-and-a-half books I chose to discuss. In the meantime, let me invite you to share with me your own books that changed your lives. Use the comments section below, if you will.

I have to admit that one of the reasons I read is that most books change my life. They allow me to travel. They allow me to experience environments and people I would be unlikely to otherwise encounter.

It may just be that those among us who do not enjoy reading refrain from doing so primarily because reading books does nothing to change their lives.

I will admit that my selected books and the stories behind them are not profound or dramatic. While my life has been filled with interesting stories, the changes wrought, by books or by other experiences, have not been the stuff of gripping memoir or biography.

Admittedly, when I was very young, I fully expected that my life would be one that provided dramatic turning points, cinematic moments, and widespread fame. And these books would have been just as important to that imagined life as they have been to the life I’ve lived so far, to middle age.

So please don’t be reticent about sharing your own book or books that changed your life. I think one thing we all share is a keen appreciation of just how life-changing reading can be.

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Seasons of Death: The Smoky Mountain MurdersJoin us Saturday, Jan. 29, at 4 p.m. as we welcome Gary Yeagle and Marlene Mitchell, local authors who have collaborated on a new book series, The Smoky Mountain Murders. Their new novel, Seasons of Death, is published by our friend Dave Mattingly at Blackwyrm Publishing, and it’s already drawing great interest within our patron base. So many of us feel as if we know the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (I practically grew up there) that the idea of a murder mystery set there seems perfectly natural.

In partnership with another NewAlbanyFirst pioneer, we’ll be offering a pick-your-own discount on the day of the event. If you dine at Bank Street Brewhouse on Saturday before the author event, bring your receipt to the signing and we’ll give you $2 off the $15.95 price of the book. If you prefer, come to the event and then join the authors for libations and/or dinner at Bank Street Brewhouse, 415 Bank St., New Albany. Chef Josh has promised a discount on that establishment’s amazing pommes frites, frenched potatoes double-fried in the Flemish style, accompanied by some of the most mouth-watering dipping sauces you’ve ever imagined. BSB is a non-smoking restaurant/brasserie, and the whole gang there is looking forward to hosting the authors and their friends starting around 5:30 p.m. Of course, the region’s finest craft beers, local wines, and independently produced spirits are available, also. If you follow the @NewAlbanyBooks Twitter feed, you can find out that day’s specials on Saturday, too.

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The Lists: IndieBound Mystery & Thriller (Plus Tim Dorsey Surprise)

Sundays at NewAlbanyBooks means “The Lists,” a light-duty feature designed to a) provide you a leisurely browse and b) offer me a low-stress way to keep my promise to give you fresh, daily content worth looking in on.

Electric Barracuda

He's Coming Back!

This week, we offer the specialty list of mysteries and thrillers selling well at independent bookstores across the country. The American Booksellers Association, of which we are members, compiles these lists from reports each week by independent booksellers who share the IndieBound spirit.

You can expect to see Tim Dorsey’s Electric Barracuda climbing this list starting next month as New Albany favorite Dorsey releases his 13th Serge Storms novel. Tim’s visit to us 3 years ago was a singular moment in New Albany cultural history (no kidding!) and he gained an appreciation for New Albany that night that induced him to insist we be included on his tour in 2011. I’ll be talking more about it in the coming weeks, but mark it down right now – Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 5:30 the inestimable Mr. Dorsey will again grace our store with a visit.

We’re planning a post-signing reception at a restaurant to be named. Tickets for that after-party are required, but will include a signed copy of the new book plus food and beverages, including the Electric Barracuda cocktail/mocktail. $37.50 for singles, $47.50 for couples (please tip your server!). Contact the store if you want to purchase tickets. Ticketed guests will be able to jump the line for the booksigning, too.

Here’s the list. A “♦” indicates my personal endorsement. You can research at, or even buy/send as a gift any of these books from our online store HERE.

The Indie Mystery Bestseller List

Moonlight Mile

Lehane's Last Ever Detective Novel

Based on sales at independent bookstores nationwide for the eight-week period ending January 9, 2011.

1. Moonlight Mile ♦
Dennis Lehane, Morrow, $26.99, 9780061836923

2. U Is for Undertow
Sue Grafton, Berkley, $7.99, 9780425238110

3. 61 Hours
Lee Child, Dell, $9.99, 9780440243694

4. Worth Dying For
Lee Child, Delacorte, $28, 9780385344319

5. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie ♦
Alan Bradley, Bantam, $15, 9780385343497

6. The Best American Mystery Stories 2010
Lee Child (Ed.), Mariner, $14.95, 9780547237466

7. Djibouti ♦
Elmore Leonard, Morrow, $26.99, 9780061735172

8. Killing Floor
Lee Child, Jove, $9.99, 9780515141429

9. Willful Behavior
Donna Leon, Penguin, $14, 9780143117582

10. The Track of Sand
Andrea Camilleri, Penguin, $14, 9780143117933

An Easter Egg for reading this far!

11. The Charming Quirks of Others
Alexander McCall Smith, Pantheon, $24.95, 9780307379177

12. Dog on It
Spencer Quinn, Atria, $15, 9781416585848

13. The Professional
Robert B. Parker, Berkley, $9.99, 9780425236307

14. Maisie Dobbs
Jacqueline Winspear, Penguin, $15, 9780142004333

15. Faceless Killers
Henning Mankell, Vintage, $14.95, 9781400031573

16. Painted Ladies
Robert B. Parker, Putnam, $26.95, 9780399156854

17. The Fat Man
Ken Harmon, Dutton, $19.95, 9780525951957

18. The Private Patient
P.D. James, Vintage, $15, 9780307455284

19. The Last Child
John Hart, Minotaur, $14.99, 9780312642365

20. The Lost Art of Gratitude
Alexander McCall Smith, Anchor, $14, 9780307387080

21. Thereby Hangs a Tail
Spencer Quinn, Atria, $15, 9781416585862

22. The Lace Reader
Brunonia Barry, Harper, $14.99, 9780061624773

23. Wicked Appetite
Janet Evanovich, St. Martin’s, $27.99, 9780312652913

24. Gone Tomorrow
Lee Child, Dell, $9.99, 9780440243687

25. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Alexander McCall Smith, Anchor, $14, 9781400034772

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Spider Bites: YA Novelist Susan Coventry

Spiders make webs. Authors have Websites. I’m committed to providing you with good content every day at NewAlbanyBooks, but on Saturdays I’ll be offering up the blogs, the personal and/or professional Websites, or publisher author pages of writers I believe you will enjoy learning more about.

Susan CoventryToday’s featured author is Susan Coventry, writer of The Queen’s Daughter, a young adult historical novel about Joan of England, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II. Coventry is, almost by coincidence, a local author, but this first novel is published by Henry Holt & Co. and has been creating quite a stir in the YA publishing world.

The author will be part of a triumvirate of YA authors appearing at the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library on Saturday, March 19, from 2 to 4 p.m. Coventry’s book is one that would be a great selection for mother-daughter book clubs and the historical aspects make it an outstanding choice for classrooms, too.

Click this link for Susan Coventry’s official Website and this one for her professional blog, ReadingWorld, which ranges far beyond young adult themes and can be another resource for you to find great reading.

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The Queen's Daughter

And a Crusader's Wife

 

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Passages: Bad Liars

Just a brief note today while I prepare my “Best of 2010” list. It might surprise you, but I’m not paid to read. I’m paid to run a business. If I were paid to read, perhaps I’d be more disciplined. You know, feet flat on the floor, book on the table, dictionary and thesaurus at hand, and a notepad to transcribe the really good stuff.

I’m not, so I tend to absorb instead of memorize. But I’m a fan of great writing, and a brilliant passage adds immeasurably to my enjoyment of a book – and to my ultimate recommendation when handselling it to you.

Heads You Lose

Coming in April, by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

Many of you know that I have the wonderful opportunity to read books several months before they reach the stores. In fact, I receive far more than I can possibly review. Some of you have helped me in the past by reading and commenting on these advance reader copies. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again: I welcome guest submissions for inclusion in this blog, so if you’ve read something interesting, please consider submitting it for publication. At least use the comments section to alert us to it. OK?

In any case, here’s a passage from a forthcoming book by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward – a novel called Heads You Lose. It will be a success, I’m sure, though that doesn’t always transfer to the north shore of the Ohio. We’ll see. I’m only a few pages into it, but I think I’ll be recommending it come April.

So here’s the line:

Sook was a bad liar, but Paul let it go. He’d always thought bad liars were kind of like honest people — you always knew where you stood.

Know anyone like that?

Look for more long after the snow melts.

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